Russell Packer's announced return to the NRL is in serious doubt, with the immigration department yet to decide whether to cancel his visa and send him back to New Zealand.
St George Illawarra on Wednesday said they had signed the controversial former Kiwis Test prop to a two-year deal after getting the green light from the NRL.
Packer was sentenced to two years in jail in January 2014 after being found guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and was released in January this year.
He has been training full-time with the Dragons since August, the same time he began a university business degree.
But Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on Thursday revealed his department was still considering Packer's case, flagging the possibility he could be deported and unable to fulfil the new contract.
"No decision's been made," Dutton told Radio 2GB.
"So they'll (the Dragons) have to answer questions about their approach."
Dutton said that, generally, if a non-Australian citizen had broken the law - be it assault, theft or rape - they can "expect to have their visa cancelled and sent back to their country of origin".
"We take into account considerations around Australian-born children, how long people have been here - all of that is available to weigh up against the severity of the crimes being committed."
The NRL said its decision to give Packer the all-clear was made independent of the federal government and solely based on whether he was considered fit to return to first grade.
"Any determination by the federal government will be made separately and that's a matter for them," an NRL spokesman told AAP.
"We're only in charge of our own business and our own competition.
"Given the time out he's had and the way he's responded to that, we think it's appropriate he be allowed to return."
The Dragons have been contacted for comment.
Russell Packer narrowly avoids deportation from Australia
By Raniera Harrison 5:35pm, Thursday 17 December 2015
St George Illawarra prop Russell Packer has finally been given the all-clear to resume his NRL career, after the Australian Federal Immigration Department notified his legal team yesterday that he would not be deported over his jail term for assault.
The 26-year-old was sentenced to two years in prison in January 2014, after being found guilty of occasioning actual bodily harm in a Sydney CBD brawl on November 2013. A 22-year-old victim suffered numerous facial injuries and two fractured facial bones.
Packer's club, the St. George Illawarra Dragons, has always stood by Packer since news broke of his potential deportation, following the toughening up of immigration and deportation policies in Australia.
Packer's father, Russell Packer Sr, confirmed to Te Kāea reporter Raniera Harrison that the NZ Warriors were willing to take him back if he was deported.
Russell Packer granted visa to stay in Australia
By Raniera Harrison Thursday 17 December 2015
St George Illawarra prop, Russell Packer (Ngāti Apa, Ngāti Kuia) has been given clearance to remain in Australia by the Federal Immigration Department, who notified Packers legal representation last night.
“I can’t really say much – but I can confirm that he’s been given a second chance”, said Russell Packer Sr, confirming to Te Kāea today the good news for the family.
“He rang me late last night to tell me the good news, now he just wants to get on with it” continued Packer Sr, from his Foxton residence.
Packer, 26, was sentenced to two years in prison in January 2014 after being found guilty of occasioning actual bodily harm, in a Sydney CBD brawl, in November 2013, leaving the 22-year-old victim with numerous facial injuries and two fractured facial bones.
His club, the St. George-Illawarra Dragons has always stood by Packer since news broke of his potential deportation, following the intensification of immigration and deportation policies in Australia.
“The Dragons have been advised by Russell Packer’s legal team of the positive outcome with respect to his immigration status,’’ a club statement said. “The Dragons and Russell respect the process, are pleased by the outcome and have no further comment to make on this situation.
“Russell’s position at the Dragons remains unchanged, in that he continues to train full time in preparation for the 2016 season.’’
The immigration row was just the latest hurdle Packer has had to overcome to get his NRL career back on track. Following his release from prison he was signed by the Dragons but spent most of 2015 in limbo with the NRL delaying a decision on whether he could play any form of the game.
The Foxton native has completed a Certificate IV in Community Services for Wollongong TAFE, in which, those closest to him say “he’s a changed man.”
“He knows what he has to do now, all he has to do is get on with it”, continues Packer's father.
Sports journalist, Raniera Harrison will have the latest developments on Russell Packer tonight on Te Kāea, 5:30pm, on Māori Television.
St George Illawarra Dragons prop Russell Packer no longer facing deportation
December 17, 2015 - 9:42AM
Former New Zealand Test prop Russell Packer will make his return to the NRL with St George Illawarra next season after being cleared by immigration authorities to stay in the country after serving a jail sentence for assault.
Despite being given the green light by the NRL to join the Dragons, Packer faced the threat of deportation under a Federal Government crackdown on non-citizens with crime convictions.
The Dragons have been advised by Russell Packer's legal team of the positive outcome with respect to his immigration statusSt George Illawarra statement
Packer, 26, was paroled after serving 12 months of a two year jail sentence for an assault in Martin Place in 2013. He had been due to join the Newcastle Knights but was sacked and played for St George Illawarra's feeder team after being released from jail earlier this year..
Russell Packer in action for the Illawarra Cutters against the Newtown Jets in May. Photo: Dallas Kilponen
He has since been granted permission to play in the NRL next year and has been training with the Dragons, who were advised on Wednesday that he could now stay.
"The Dragons have been advised by Russell Packer's legal team of the positive outcome with respect to his immigration status," the club said in a statement.
"The Dragons and Russell respect the process, are pleased by the outcome and have no further comment to make on this situation.
"Russell's position at the Dragons remains unchanged, in that he continues to train fulltime in preparation for the 2016 season."
Packer is considered a key signing for St George Illawarra and has been working hard off the field to turn his life around, with the former Warriors frontrower recently completing a Certificate IV in Community Services at Wollongong TAFE.
Russell Packer could be sent packing from Australia
Published on Nov 12, 2015
Russell Packer deportation threat ’pathetic’, says judge and former NRL judiciary chairman
November 13, 2015
District Court judge and former NRL judiciary chairman Paul Conlon says it would be “a God damn disgrace” if Russell Packer was deported back to New Zealand.
Packer continued training with the Dragons amid fresh speculation that Immigration Minister Peter Dutton was about to cancel his Australian visa.
That would effectively destroy any hope of Packer making an NRL return in 2016 after he was recently given the green light by the game’s governing body.
While a spokesman for Mr Dutton said on Friday it could still be a fortnight before the full case is sent to the Minister for a decision, the Immigration Minister is currently in the process of deporting dozens of Kiwis who had their visas torn up for violent convictions.
But Conlon argued Packer was a first-time offender who had showed why he deserved a second chance since being released from jail in January.
“It is quite extraordinary that they would be thinking of deporting him,” Conlon said.
“That is just pathetic. Is this some chest-beating exercise on behalf of somebody now, is it? If this happens it is just a God damn disgrace.
“From what I know this is a person who before he pleaded guilty to his assault occasioning actual bodily harm had no prior criminal convictions in Australia or New Zealand.
“He is a first-time offender who has suffered a very significant penalty (one year in jail) and it would appear that his acceptance of responsibility for his own rehabilitation has been nothing short of outstanding.
“This is the type of thing that the criminal justice system hopes for.
“One of the great hopes of the criminal justice system and the corrective service system is that people can be rehabilitated and be a worthwhile member of the community which is exactly what he is achieving.
“And for that they want to deport him? It is just ridiculous.”
Russell Packer has impressed while training with the Dragons.
Asked if everyone in society was subjected to the same standards, Conlon said: “There is no way.
“I am aware of people who have committed much more serious crimes than that who haven’t been deported after they have served sentences.”
A reformed addict of alcohol and prescription drugs, Packer’s troubled upbringing has been well documented but those close to him at the Dragons say the married father of two has totally transformed his life since his conviction.
After being named in the NSW Cup team of the year, only this week Packer graduated from Wollongong TAFE with a Certificate IV in Community Services.
He also worked as a mentor for the ‘Score Dragons’ program that took out the NRL’s Community Program of the year and is now studying for a university degree where he has so far received outstanding results.
It is believed that Packer’s conviction has already cost him in the vicinity of $1 million.
Russell Packer has excelled in his rehabilitation, with studies outside of the game.
“I have seen how much hard work he has put in outside of these grounds and the community. He is just a genuine good guy,” teammate Joel Thompson said.
Thompson himself overcame his own troubles in life to become one of the most respected players in the NRL.
Asked if he was disappointed that Packer could now face further punishment, Thompson added: “As a friend and as a player I know what he does off-field and the type of person he is.
“I would be a massive shame to see him go. We love him here.”
St George Illawarra chief executive Peter Doust said the club respected the Department of Immigration process and it would be inappropriate to make comment because the matter was still being considered.
Benji Marshall urges fans to save Russell Packer from being deported
November 17, 2015
BENJI Marshall has sent a passionate plea to his thousands of Instagram followers to sign a petition and try to stop teammate Russell Packer from being deported.
Marshall returns to pre-season training later this week with the Dragons where there’s been plenty of concern about the immediate future of Packer.
The 26-year-old prop is facing the very real prospect of being sent home to New Zealand as the Australian Government gets tough on Kiwis with recorded violent criminal convictions.
Packer served a year in jail for a November 2013 assault, but since worked hard to get his life back on track.
He’s already been given the green light by the NRL to resurrect his first-grade career at St George Illawarra.
Marshall flew back from New Zealand on Monday, but not before he took to social media to let his 73,000 followers how they could do their bit to try and save Packer.
St George Illawarra Dragons prop Russell Packer's threat of deportation a legal minefield
St George Illawarra Dragons prop Russell Packer's threat of deportation a legal minefield
November 20, 2015
So, a question. If you could deport new St George Illawarra recruit Russell Packer back to his native New Zealand, would you? Some questions are easy; others, anything but.
The other day my daughter, who turns six next week (happy birthday, Ella) asked me what I want to be when I grow up. Whether that itself implies Ella thinks I'm still to traverse the threshold of adulthood is irrelevant; but the answer required no thought: tambourine-playing backing singer in the E Street Band. Problem is, Bruce Springsteen isn't in the business of hiring people with a vocal range of half an octave; who can't keep 4/4 time tapping a pencil.
Conversely, Packer's case is a dilemma cloaked conundrum. Twelve months ago I wrote it wasn't a fait accompli the NRL would give the green light to Packer's transfer from the cell block to the dressing sheds, simply because the Dragons adopted a "dickheads" recruitment policy. In the intervening period, Packer's spent time languishing in rugby league purgatory. Very recently, Packer received the NRL's imprimatur, to return to the big stage in 2016.
Legal battle: St George Illawarra prop Russell Packer with his partner Lara Wilcox. Photo: Adam McLean
Yet it remains the case this permission might be academic. It's distinctly possible Packer's criminal acts will result in him no longer having permission to call Australia home, making it difficult to get to training on time.
Packer is a citizen of New Zealand. He's not an Australian citizen; he's entitled to live here only because he's been granted a suitable visa, under Australian law. In late 2013 Packer was found guilty, in the NSW Local Court, of serious assault charges. At some ungodly hour one morning earlier that year, Packer involved himself in a fracas in Sydney's CBD. The particular facts to which Packer pleaded guilty concerned him knocking his victim unconscious, and stomping on the victim's head as he lay motionless in the gutter.
Which is de rigueur in the UFC … but I digress.
Infamous incident: Russell Packer urinates on the field prior to a game against the Brisbane Broncos during his stint with the Warriors.
Packer was sentenced to two years' imprisonment. The sentencing magistrate described Packer's conduct as "cowardly and deplorable". On appeal the sentence was reduced to two years' jail, with 12 months non-parole. Now pause. Packer didn't pack his bags for the big house because of drug possession, or run-o'-the-mill drink-driving. Packer decided it'd be reasonable to brutally kick the bejesus out of an unconscious man, with reckless abandon; reckless as to the damage (or worse) he might cause.
Packer rightly paid a high price. That the NRL has determined Packer "fit and proper" to resume his seat on the gravy train is, of itself, curious. Nonetheless it is a decision now made, not without foundation. Packer has used his time out wisely, rehabilitating himself to a point where, apparently, he's a better citizen than when he was locked up. Clearly, the NRL and the Dragons see something in Packer. So, again I ask: would you deport him? Because the Federal Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, well might.
Australia has the sovereign right to decide the basis on which foreign citizens may enter, and remain in this country. To be entitled to live in Australia affords a non-citizen tremendous privileges; but to remain here is not an irrevocable entitlement.
Quite why we're having a debate about Packer's immigration status an entire year after he was released from prison is a matter for another time, but the short point is that Packer may be headed for turbulence. Because Packer's crimes landed him two years' jail (he served 12 months), the reality is that Packer has acute problems under Australia's Migration Act. The legislation grants the minister discretion to order the deportation of a non-citizen who commits a crime in Australia, if the person was then jailed for at least a year. Packer is such a person.
However, as is so often the case, the minister has various intersecting powers. Section 501 of the Migration Act is cast in more rigid language. The Minister MUST cancel a visa, granted to a non-citizen, if the minister is satisfied the person is of bad character, by virtue of having a "substantial criminal record". A person has such a record if, among other things, he or she has ever (in Australia, or elsewhere) been sentenced to prison for 12 months or more.
Pausing again. Decisions to revoke visas granted to non-citizen criminals are serious matters, based on the central premise of protecting the Australian community from the risks posed by such people being here. Deportation decisions aren't made flippantly, or capriciously. And if the minister cancels Packer's visa, he must then invite him to respond, with reasons why the mandatory cancellation should be revoked. Packer must then shoulder the burden of demonstrating precisely why he should remain here.
His reasons will be measured against three criteria:
- protecting the community from criminal conduct;
- the best interests of his children;
- and what Australia's community expectations are.
Violent criminal conduct is viewed very seriously. On the other hand, it's in Packer's favour he is not a career offender; although some conduct at the most serious end of the spectrum poses so great a risk to the community that any chance of it being repeated is a risk that won't be taken. Packer's conduct, however vile, isn't in the same ballpark as that of murderers, or worse. Packer's efforts to make himself a better person, through education and community work, will also count in his favour. Packer has young children. His deportation might be detrimental to their best interests, even if his family went back to New Zealand with him. But it's likely there would be little impediment to the family re-integrating into New Zealand society. The impact would be far less than if the family were forced to return to a warzone.
Banished to NSW Cup: Russell Packer in action for the Illawarra Cutters against the Newtown Jets in May. Photo: Dallas Kilponen
Some types of criminal conduct justify deportation simply because the Australian community expects a person, guilty of certain crimes, shouldn't have a visa. It may be difficult for Packer to argue his case here. It's also relevant that Packer hasn't lived in Australia for years; hence he hasn't built up any moral equity by positively contributing to Australian society. It's irrelevant that he is a professional athlete. It's irrelevant that Packer's deportation might prevent him from pursuing his career as a professional NRL player. It's irrelevant that 3000-odd people have signed an online petition asking that the government to let him remain in Australia.
So, would I deport Packer? My view is he's a scumbag for what he did, and he deserved to be jailed. I remain troubled that the national governing body of one of Australia's premier sporting codes has been so willing to allow Packer, and other criminals, back into the professional game. But it is a fine balance whether Packer should be deported from this country. He doesn't appear to pose a continuing threat to community, and his life seems to now be on a better path. If it were me making the decision, I wouldn't deport Packer. But things are never that simple.
Darren Kane is a Sydney sports lawyer
Posted: 13 November, 2015 by Triple M / AAP
Reports Packer Cleared To Play NRL For Dragons
In some massive news for Dragons fans, Kiwi international Russell Packer will not be deported and has been cleared to play for St George Illawarra.
Signed by the Dragons last year, Packer received a two-year prison term in 2013 after pleading guilty to assault charges.
The 26-year-old was released from jail in January, linking with the Illawarra Cutters and earning a spot in the NSW Cup Team of the Year.
He was cleared by the NRL to join the Dragons and hoped his troubles were over.
Packer, a former Kiwi-international, played 110 matches for the Warriors before the assault conviction.
Dragons Ins and Outs
Ins: Kurt Mann (Storm), Siliva Havili (Warriors), Mose Masoe (St Helens RLFC), Dunamis Lui (Sea Eagles), Tyrone McCarthy (Hull Kingston Rovers), Sebastine Ikahihifo (Warriors), Kalifa Faifai Loa (Titans), Josh McCrone (Raiders), Taane Milne (Roosters), Adam Quinlan (St Helens), Tim Lafai (Bulldogs)
Outs: Trent Merrin (Panthers), Dan Hunt (retirement), Charly Runciman (Widnes Vikings), Nathan Green (Sea Eagles) Rory O'Brien (Eels), Eto Nabuli (rugby union), Justin Hunt (Wests Tigers), Heath L'estrange (retirement), Adam Tuimavave-Gerard (released), Jack Kavanagh (released), Mark Ioane (London Broncos), Craig Garvey (Bulldogs)
Earlier On Triple M
NSW Origin prospect Joel Thompson has openly thrown his support behind St George Illawarra teammate Russell Packer amid rumours the former New Zealand international is facing deportation.
Thompson has formed a close friendship with Packer and is confident the 112kg prop isn't going anywhere.
"As a friend and as a player, I know what he does off the field and know what type of person that he is and it'd be a massive shame to see him go," Thompson said.
"I haven't really thought about it because I only heard about it today and I wasn't really on the social media, but it would be a massive loss.
"He's just a genuine good guy. I'm looking forward to ripping into the season with him and running out into battle with him."
Russell Packer didn't appear concerned about reports he was to be deported as he sweated through the first day of pre-season training with his St George Illawarra teammates at WIN Stadium.
"I did a few training sessions with him in the off-season and he's a great mentor for the young guys and was dragging a lot of them through.
"Just talking to him, he's a great guy to have around the club. I honestly haven't had a conversation with him about [deportation] it and it hasn't been brought up here."
Packer's legal advisers are believed to be investigating the matter, while the NRL is said to be leaving the possibility of deportation in the hands of the Australian government.
A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said a decision on Packer's visa had not yet been made on Friday.
In October, Dutton said, generally, if a non-Australian citizen had broken the law - be it assault, theft or rape - they can "expect to have their visa cancelled and sent back to their country of origin".
"We take into account considerations around Australian-born children, how long people have been here - all of that is available to weigh up against the severity of the crimes being committed."
Packer, a former Kiwi-international, played 110 matches for the Warriors before the assault conviction.
NRL players have signed a petition to the Australian government to block Russell Packer’s deportation
WITH nothing left to do but wait, Dragons prop Russell Packer has returned to pre-season training while his legal team negotiates with the Australian government.
But rather than sit back and let a fellow player be shipped off, NRL stars such as Manu Vatuvei, Jacob Lillyman and Konrad Hurrell have signed an online petition to prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, attempting to block his deportation.
The petition on change.org surfaced two days ago and has already been signed by almost 1,700 supporters including several NRL players and former teammates.
Packer has been caught up in a move by the Immigration department, which has begun deporting Kiwis who have been convicted of violent crimes.
Parramatta second-rower Manu Ma’u has also put his name to the petition, saying that Packer deserves a second chance to turn his life around after serving a one-year jail sentence for assault in 2014.
Parramatta's Manu Ma'u has signed an online petition to support Russell Packer.Source: News Corp Australia
Ma’u also served time in prison before joining Parramatta and is living proof of a successful second chance with a new life.
Packer’s history of prescription drug and alcohol abuse is well-documented, but since his release he was named in the NSW Cup team of the year with the Illawarra Cutters and has graduated Wollongong Tafe with a Certificate IV in Community Services.
The New Zealand national is also studying a university degree, a further attempt at turning his life around.
Packer’s conviction was a first offence and the majority of support on the petition called for recognition of his rehabilitation.
Late last week Dragons teammate Joel Thompson said he would be disappointed to see Packer pay for his mistake twice.
“As a friend and as a player, I know what he does off the field and know what type of person that he is and it’d be a massive shame to see him go,” Thompson said.
Russell Packer Returns To NRL
Published on Oct 28, 2015
May 8, 2015 11:30pm
THERE are many things many people will say about Russell Packer. Here is one few will say: I vouch for him.
Today, I feel a little like Lefty Guns Ruggiero vouching for Donnie Brasco, although somewhat more confident of a brighter ending.
For several hours Thursday myself and several more sports writers sat with Packer and his partner Lara Wilcox over a Chinese lunch at St George Leagues Club.
Packer spoke openly about how prison changed him.
Packer arriving at court for his assault charge.
Packer’s infamous onfield relief moment.
Packer’s undoubted power had NRL clubs interested despite his personal problems.
Packer says he’s starting to understand the causes and effects of his actions.
Tony Popovic staying at Wanderland
A-League: Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic extends his contract with the Wanderers until 2018
1 of 6
We had to do very little, in truth. We turned our tape recorders on and for almost two hours watched a man grow before us.
Russell Packer sat down and paused only occasionally for a dumpling, but spoke for so long and so convincingly that it was one of those moments where you wished you could invite your entire readership to be there with you. You needed to hear this.
When it was done Packer and Lara had filled the conversation with more than 7000 words. You would need a dozen pages in The Daily Telegraph to do it justice.
And if you couldn’t get everybody in with us then at least it is something the NRL must hear.
NRL Integrity Unit boss Nick Weeks listened to Packer’s case and also left convinced he deserves one last chance but the boss, Dave Smith, who has final say, has also seen the CCTV footage of the assault that sent Packer to 12 months in jail and he remains reluctant to clear him.
So what makes this different?
The trick to considering Packer’s bid to return to the NRL is to overlook the facade, the thick and heavy tattoos, which contribute to prejudice.
Packer possesses a quality few of the NRL’s perpetual bad boys possess, and none to the extent witnessed in Packer: intelligence.
It’s well hidden, admittedly, and is coming a fair beneath a rough package of tattoos and coarse language, hiding the difference between education and intelligence.
It is why, when Packer performed some of the more oafish events in his career — urinating in his pants on the Suncorp Stadium grass has to rank among the top — it was easy to revert to stereotype.
Boofhead footballer, poorly educated, too arrogant to care.
It is sad to admit that, in many ways.
And Packer did not care, to be honest. He said as much over dumplings.
In truth, Packer is a movie cliche: the Ugly Duckling Syndrome. We look at him and see Thug Life when he could be Act I in a Disney movie. One of those feel-good movies where the lead character discovers some hidden, charming side — the warrior poet — to the movie ogre.
The reason: he didn’t care.
The question then becomes why, and at that Packer unravels a tale of growing up that makes you want to go home and cuddle your kids forever.
“With the alcohol issues that I had,” he says, “you have to say it affected me a little bit. I had a decent childhood, but you pick up a few issues …”
His mum used to buy him cartons of beer when he was 12. As kids, they went to parties and tried to drink more than the adults supervising them. His dad turned 60 while he was in jail.
“Someone got stabbed and people were laughing” says Lara. “Russell was in jail. It was like, ‘He’ll be OK.’ That’s what Russ was brought up around.”
He believed alcohol was a friend, never realising it was a crutch. Whenever there was a problem in life, he reached for a bottle.
The difference between Packer and so many repeat offenders, of which he admits he was one, is that since landing in jail he has broken his character down and analysed not what went wrong, but why.
It is the key to understanding, the knowledge that his core beliefs are wrong, that he had triggers he must avoid.
That was difficult to admit, and it took some time. He realises now his core beliefs, developed over a lifetime, are wrong.
“Where I grew up, if you have an argument with your neighbour, you don’t ring the cops,” he says. “Where my views and perspective on these things have changed … You have a verbal argument with your neighbour, you fight, shake hands, and go off … Obviously, that’s not the right way, from what I’ve learnt.”
What was important came next.
“You have a chance to change them,” he says.
It started after Packer was in jail a few months, sent to Oberon jail to undertake a young offenders program.
“They call it triggers for destructive behaviour,” he says. “The triggers could be whatever they are: being injured, being unhappy … I was just young and I didn’t know how to cope with it.”
He is now aware of his triggers, and how he can avoid their impact.
Through counselling and education, an intelligent man has learned to look inwardly, and beam outwardly. He was caught in his own cliche.
“My message to come out of this — I am probably the perfect person to say it — is it doesn’t matter how you appear or look,” he says.
“I am physically strong and big. I used to always question myself and say ‘I am so strong’, but why wasn’t I strong enough to look at myself and say you can’t fix your problem by yourself, you need to go and make yourself vulnerable and ask other people for help?
“I am the No.1 stereotype. Where I grew up, why would you cry over that, you’re weak. That’s not weakness. That is how my mind has really changed. It shows more strength to go out and ask for help when you know you need it.”
Packer has vowed to never drink again and it has nothing to do with satisfying other people’s opinions.
“If I could bottle up what we went through, what I put my missus and kids through for a year, and you’re willing to jeopardise that for half a beer?” he says.
It needs no more explaining.
The comeback begins after the NSWRL cleared Packer overnight to make his return with the Illawarra Cutters against Newtown on Saturday.
JANUARY 06, 2014
NATIONAL Rugby League player Russell Packer has been handed a two-year jail sentence for a "cowardly and deplorable'' assault, in which he punched a man lying on the ground and stamped on his head.
The 24-year-old former Warriors forward and Newcastle Knights recruit appeared stunned as he was sentenced to time behind bars for the drunken assault on a man in Sydney's CBD.
His lawyers said he would appeal against the severity of the sentence, but a magistrate refused to grant Packer bail in the meantime.
Newcastle said it would support the player and his family "through the process".
The Downing Centre Local Court was today told that Packer had been kicked out of the Chambers Hotel at 1.30am on November 23 last year because he was too drunk.
He moved about 20 metres from the Martin Place pub then got into a disagreement with another man.
The argument is said to have started when Packer was accused of stealing two cigarettes from a woman sitting nearby.
Magistrate Greg Grogan told the court that Packer punched the man in the face, causing him to fall and hit his head on the ground.
Packer punched the man several times as he lay on the ground and then stamped on his head, the court was told, leaving the victim with two fractured facial bones.
Packer pleaded guilty today to assault occasioning actually bodily harm and failing to leave a venue.
Mr Grogan labelled Packer's behaviour "cowardly and deplorable'' and said the result could have been much worse.
"The person fell to the ground and luckily it would appear did not suffer those injuries seen in media reports as of late,'' Mr Grogan said.
"There was potential for that, Mr Packer.
"You added fuel to the fire by attacking a man lying motionless on the ground, punching him and then standing up and stomping on his head.''
Mr Grogan said that the public was sick and tired of the behaviour Packer showed that night.
Earlier in the case, Packer's lawyer tried to distance the assault from those attracting the media's spotlight.
"This is not a king-hit,'' Murugan Thangaraj, SC, said.
In passing sentence, Mr Grogan said that with a 25 per cent discount for entering a guilty plea early, Packer was jailed for a fixed two-year term.
Mr Grogan accepted that the assault was not a king-hit, but said alcohol-related violence was a serious concern for the community.
Mr Thangaraj asked Mr Grogan to reopen the sentence and said he had absolutely no idea that jail time was being considered.
Two corrective services officers led Packer, who seemed confused, out of the courtroom as his legal team scrambled to the court registry to lodge an appeal.
The police prosecutor did not oppose bail under certain conditions including that Packer report to police three times a week and abstain from alcohol.
Mr Thangaraj argued there was no evidence Packer would assault again and it was important for him to continue his rehabilitation.
But Mr Grogan said he was concerned about community safety if Packer was released on bail.
He said Packer appeared to be a ticking time bomb on the night of the assault and he denied him bail.
Packer kissed his emotional partner as he was placed in handcuffs and led out of the court.
The appeal against the severity of the sentence has been lodged for February 11.
Packer made his NRL debut with the warriors in 2008 and went on to play 110 games for the Auckland-based club.
He was recruited by Newcastle, although the club last month refused to register his contract in the wake of the assault charges.
Newcastle Knights football general manager Warren Smiles said today the club would support Packer.
"There is a process in place with the appeal going forward to the court date in February,'' he told reporters outside court.
"From there we will support Russell through the process and his family, his two young children.''
In a statement today, the club confirmed Packer's contract with the NRL was not registered and that he had previously been stood down from all club duties.
The club said it would make no further comment until the court process was concluded.
Updated 6 Jan 2014
NRL player Russell Packer has been sentenced to two years in prison for an assault in central Sydney last year.
The 24-year-old prop pleaded guilty in Downing Centre Local Court today to charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and failing to quit a venue.
The court heard the New Zealander repeatedly punched a man and stomped on his head in the attack at Martin Place during a night out in November.
The incident left his 22-year-old victim unconscious with a fractured eye socket.
Packer's lawyers told the court this morning that their client is having counselling for anger management and alcohol issues.
They said while the assault was serious it was not a king hit.
But the police prosecutor said Packer had plenty of opportunities to walk away from the fight and continued to attack his victim even when he was unconscious on the ground.
In sentencing, Magistrate Greg Grogan told the court the community and courts were sick of alcohol-related violence.
He sentenced Packer to the maximum available penalty of a two-year fixed term.
The outcome was a surprise to both Packer and his legal team, who first asked the court to re-open the sentence and then lodged an immediate appeal against it.
They also made an application for Packer's release on bail.
Packer has played 110 games for the New Zealand Warriors in the NRL but signed a contract in October to join the Newcastle Knights.
The NRL, however, has refused to register his contract.
Last month, NRL chief operating officer Jim Doyle said the decision was directly linked to the charges laid.
"We have also been clear that we will always act on any information that demonstrates behaviour which is contrary to the interests, welfare and image of the NRL," he said.
"While we make no inference in relation to the charges that Russell is facing, our integrity unit has reported conduct that leaves us with little choice other than to refuse the application for registration."
NRL club the Newcastle Knights say it is standing behind Packer.
The Knights' general manager Warren Smiles says Packer and his family will not be sidelined by the club.
"There's a process in place with the appeal and going forward with the court date in February," he said.
"Then we'll obviously support Russell through the process and his family, he's got two young children so we'll support them and probably release any other statement after that."
- CHRIS GARRY, DAVID MURRAY
- THE COURIER-MAIL
- JUNE 04, 2013
POLICE may take action against New Zealand Warriors prop forward Russell Packer for urinating mid-game at Suncorp Stadium.
"Police are conducting inquiries into an incident that occurred overnight at a stadium in Milton," a Queensland Police Service spokesman said.
"There is no further information available at this time."
Packer urinated during the first half of the NRL clash with the Brisbane Broncos on Monday in an incident captured on Fox Sports cameras.
While he has so far escaped charges, a married mother-of-two who was filmed urinating on a Suncorp Stadium seat was taken to court and fined $100 in 2011.
Police figures show there were 4692 charges for public urination in Queensland last financial year, down from 5032 the previous year.
The police spokesman said the offence of public urination carried a standard fine of $200.
Earlier, it was reported New Zealand Warriors forward Russell Packer had apologised for urinating on Suncorp Stadium during the NRL clash with the Broncos.
The NRL moved quickly this morning to punish Packer, hitting the club with a$15,000 fine over the incident, which was captured by Fox Sports cameras and lit up Twitter.
In scenes reminiscent of the Don McKinnon "had to go" moment in 1988, and as his Warriors team destroyed the Broncos, Packer decided to urinate during the first half, doing so nonchalantly with hands on hips.
“This sort of behaviour is completely unacceptable and there is no excuse for it,” said NRL general manager (football operations) Nathan McGuirk.
Packer took to Twitter today to apologise for the act.
"Hey guys just a quick apology to you and your family regarding my accident last night it has offended some which i am sorry," he wrote.
"It was an unfortunate thing that happened i hope this apology eases your mind somewhat and helps you move on from it as i will be doing thanks russ."
The Warriors have five working days to make submissions in relation to the breach notice. Packer could also be charged for public urination.
It is understood NRL officials were aware of the incident moments after it happened.
There is a storied history of footy players taking inappropriate action to relieve themselves in major games.
McKinnon was the grisly Manly prop who christened the Broncos entry to the premiership in 1988 with a leak at Lang Park.
He copped a $1000 fine.
However, this was in the days before the interchange rules and McKinnon correctly argued, "What else was I going to do? You can't just take time off and race off the field," he said.
All Blacks forward Jerry Collins also famously urinated on the field during a Bledisloe Cup match several years ago.